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The McClung Museum opens the new exhibition Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt on Saturday.

From domesticated cats to mythic symbols of divinities, felines played an important role in ancient Egyptian imagery for thousands of years. Now, 80 items from the Egyptian holdings of the Brooklyn Museum will be on view in Divine Felines at the museum through May 7.

Stela with the Gods Bes and Tutu, 332-30 B.C.E..

Likely first domesticated in ancient Egypt, cats were revered for their fertility and valued for their ability to protect homes and granaries from vermin. But felines were also associated with royalty and deities. Combining a lion’s body and a king’s head, sphinxes guarded temple entrances and provided protection as temple objects. The ferocious goddess Sakhmet, depicted as a lioness or lion-headed woman, and the goddess Bastet, represented as a cat or a cat-headed woman, together symbolized the duality of feline nature — caring yet dangerous. The male leonine gods Bes and Tutu were popularly worshiped as protectors of fertility, health and fortune.

Statuette of a Cat, 332-30 B.C.E.

Exhibition programming, all free and open to the public, will also include:

  • A lecture on mummification in ancient Egypt by scholar Bob Brier, co-sponsored by the East Tennessee Society of the Archaeological Institute of America, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 21.
  • Two free family fun days—”Purrs from the Past,” 1–4 p.m. Saturday, February 25, and “To Kitties’ Health,” 1­–4 p.m. Saturday, March 25.
  • A stroller tour for caregivers and infants through four-year-olds, “Kitties and Toddlers,” at 10 a.m. Monday, February 27.
  • A lecture on cat behavior by Julie Albright from UT’s School of Veterinary Medicine at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 19.

Divine Felines is organized by the Brooklyn Museum and Yekaterina Barbash, associate curator of Egyptian Art at the Brooklyn Museum.

The exhibition is presented by the Elaine A. Evans Museum Fund, Aletha and Clayton Brodine Museum Fund, the First Tennessee Foundation, UT Ready for the World, Audrey Duncan, Wahid and Samia Hanna, the Archaeological Institute of America, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine and the Arab American Club of Knoxville. Additional support is provided by Knox County, the City of Knoxville, and the Arts and Heritage Fund.

The McClung Museum is at 1327 Circle Park Drive. Museum admission is free, and the museum’s hours are 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 1–5 p.m. Sundays. Groups may schedule tours by calling 865-974-2144 or emailing Free two-hour museum parking passes are available from the parking information building at the entrance to Circle Park Drive on weekdays by request. Free parking is available on Circle Park Drive on a first-come, first-served basis on weekends. Free public transportation to the museum is also available via the Knoxville Trolley Vol Line.


Catherine Shteynberg (865-974-6921,
Stacy Palado (865-974-2143,